- A great variety of missions,
planes, and locations
- After some acclimation, flying controls easy to handle on a
- Including German, Japanese, and Russian voice-acting add to
- Can take a full-fledged bathroom
break while flying to reach some mission targets
- Easy to get your plane disoriented while seeking out enemy
planes in a dogfight
- Allows you to survive mid-air crashes with other aircraft
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Weapons Over Normandy
Score: 8.4 / 10
Lawrence Holland is the highly praised
creator of the Star Wars flying games X-Wing and Tie Fighter, in
addition to the World War II-based Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (SWOL).
Holland again uses his creative genius to devise another great-playing
flight title to add to both his and LucasArts’ game hangar with the
release of Secret Weapons over Normandy (SWON), the follow-up to SWOL.
The campaign mode of SWON has you, pilot James Chase, joining the ranks
of a secret military flying squadron fighting the evil empire of Adolph
Hitler and his Third Reich Nazi war machine and the Japanese in the
Pacific during World War II. You can pilot over 20 authentic WWII flying
crafts from both the Allied and Axis powers that helped shape the
history of the 20th Century. SWON also takes you to real sky
and sea theaters of battle that were
You really do get drawn into the well-crafted story of the campaign
mode, too. As the newest recruit to the secret Allied squadron, you are
joined by members of each of the Allied nation’s air forces in your
battles: American, British, and Russian. SWON doesn’t resort to the old
speaks English” tactic that many World War II-based movies and games
fall back on. Instead, when the Japanese pilots are talking in both the
level introductory cut-scenes and the actual missions, you hear Japanese
(with subtitles) and the same goes for the German pilots and your
Russian allies also.
Each new mission is introduced first by an authentic-looking black and
white movie peppered with both real and realistically-rendered photos.
SWON brings the simulation of WWII fighter piloting to a high level of
authenticity with the inclusion of all these presentation elements right
from the pages of history books.
Adding to the believability and true simulation aspect of SWON is the
large roster of WWII planes you’ll get to fly over the unfriendly skies
of Europe and the Pacific. From your standard fare like the American
P-51 Mustang, the British Spitfire, and the German Messerschmitt to the
exotic experimental crafts such as the “Black Bullet” and “Ascender”,
there are over 20 planes to be flown and fought in the 30 primary,
secondary, and bonus missions of SWON.
With the great WWII planes you can fly, it’s disappointing that you
can’t play SWON over Xbox Live, because as evidenced by another Xbox
flying title, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, there’s a lot of fun
to be had battling through the online skyways. But there is downloadable
content via Xbox Live in the form of new missions and planes, so
LucasArts deserves some honorable mention for that online goodie
There are also other WWII vehicles and boats throughout SWON, including
the infamously destructive Panzer tanks, aircraft carriers, destroyers,
and basically any WWII craft that was used in the operations of the
forces battling it out. (This being a LucasArts and Lawrence Holland
game, you can even unlock an X-Wing and Tie-Fighter to use once you’ve
completed the game.)
Weapons of WWII are also in plentiful supply in SWON, and you do need to
take the type of mission you will be engaged in into consideration when
selecting your weaponry. Rockets may be the best weapon to strap
underneath your plane in some instances where torpedoes are more
efficient against seagoing vessels. You can also earn upgrades for your
plane-of-choice with a better engine, stronger armor, and of course,
better weapon-holding capacity after successfully completing a mission.
Some crucial missions in SWON represent battles that shifted the war
towards the Allies favor are for the most part long and action-packed,
although there are some stretches in certain missions that require
flying to a destination that will literally take close to five minutes
You can practically set your plane to autopilot, because in at least one
instance in an early mission, you won’t even encounter enemies on your
way to the required target, and I could literally take a quick bathroom
break before getting to the target and the next wave of gameplay. But
the huge variety of gameplay that you will undertake, including
air-to-air, air-to-ground, air-to-sea, and the few ground-to-air
missions that have you manning antiaircraft guns, keep SWON constantly
fresh and challenging.
Impatient waiting to encounter enemies for more than desired timeframes
does happen throughout the game, but once you actually get into the
firestorm of enemy encounters, you’ll get overwhelmed in a good way by
the amount of action packed into each mission.
Controlling your plane is one of SWON’s uneven offerings, as is
sometimes easy to get disoriented as to where you are in direct
comparison to the ground and other planes buzzing around you in battle.
It’s not difficult to get thrown into a stall and start plummeting back
towards terra firma. Just as easy is to lose track of enemy planes that
annoyingly shred your plane with bullets unseen from multiple
And accidental mid-air collisions on your part somehow don’t result in
an immediate destruction of both you and the collided-with plane. But
SWON does have an extremely helpful targeting system that lets you lock
on to targets and the situational awareness map indicates if a plane is
a friend or foe. Overall, controlling your plane does take some
acclimation, but once the basics are learned, high-flying fighting is at
SWON looks very good too, with a strong attention-to-detail not only to
the WWII planes and other vehicles that have been amazingly re-created,
but also to the European and Pacific settings. As good as SWON looks, it
sounds even better. Voice-acting, including the many different languages
of the pilots, is stellar, and befitting a LucasArts game, the musical
score is right out of the John Williams school, perfectly fitting and
spectacularly climatic at just the right time.
LucasArts and Lawrence Holland have done it again with yet another good
flight simulator that will appeal to gamers that prefer more simulation
and less arcade-style action as is available in Crimson Skies.
Unfortunately, there’s no online support, but SWON is packed with enough
diverse gameplay with a heavy challenge level that you won’t lament the
online absence too long.